5 out of 410 days: Digital Glass Ceiling

Yesterday it was obscure print publications with poor library deposition, today it is completely find-able entries in research databases behind the pay wall.  One well known publisher in our field has taken to publishing digitally new editions of old reference works that used to be printed in book form.  This is a huge advantage for searching and cross-referencing and updating.  It’s a huge disadvantage if your institution doesn’t subscribe and in good conscience I can’t ask my library to pay $9,540.00 for the database.  That’s more than the operating budget of my department his past year.  ILL can easily secure me a copy of just about any page in any book in any library in the country, but that pay wall creates a huge research gap between poorly funded state institutions and large privates.  It puts the individual researcher in the position of having to spend hours travelling and getting permission slips to access the resources at another institution OR begging for a little favor from a scholar with a better job to make a copy and send it along OR pay for a day pass from the publisher out of one’s own pocket. The edits continue.

Can one plagiarize oneself?

Locri - Roma Pistis SNG ANS_531


Being rather demoralized by the stalling of the edits and then further derailed by a networking lunch (a most pleasurable experience with much inspiration about future study abroad, err… ‘international education’ as one says today), I couldn’t really think about coins, but didn’t want to break my promise to put a coin from the book here every day.  So I looked in my coin file and this one popped to the surface.  It looked familiar so I did a key word search and sure enough just over a year ago I talked about it at a nice invited lecture at Leeds University.  I said: “Near, or at the end of, the war with Pyrrhus, the Locrians, a community in the very toe of Italy, created a coin which has the very earliest depiction of the personification of Roma on it.  She bears a scepter, rest her right arm on a shield, and sits upon a curule chair.  She is being crowned by the personification of Pistis, the Greek equivalent of fides.   Both figures are labeled with legends so the audience cannot mistake the unusual scene.  Even this type of labeling on coins is virtually unknown at this date.  Legends usually named whose coin it was ‘the coin of King Philip’ or the ‘the coin of the Athenians’.  Our literary sources on the Pyrrhic War are spotty but according to the epitomes of Cassius Dio, the Locrians changed sides a few times and suffered the consequences of those choices—a pattern of events that repeated itself in Hannibalic War.  I take this ‘celebration’ of Roman good faith as an expression of a rather desperate hope that they might benefit from this particular Roman virtue.” I then connected it with a few literary texts.  Anyway.  It’s something.  Back to the damn edits.

Deadlines, Schmedlines


So this is why I’m none too confident about getting the edits done for the chapter by the end of the week. I’ve got three friends working on the problem of sourcing a copy of the chapter and there is always the fall back option of as one friend suggests  of asking the  “editor to ask this anonymous peer reviewer for a copy of the chapter.”  Or I can just bite the bullet and email the author directly and beg a copy, an option I’d be more comfortable with if I could find an friend in common.

4 out of 410 days: The Solstice Cometh

I can tell because I woke up naturally and happily at 6.19 am and was home from my 2.3 mile run by 7.30 am.  I am disgustingly happy as a morning person.  I got a leisurely morning and I’m at work before 8 am. SDA and I had a  powwow discussion about our travel goals for the year last night.  We debated the merits of the shorter more intense trip (3-4 weeks on the move bagging archaeological sites and museums everyday) and the longer more residential trip that would involve steady writing routines and with the topographical experiences intermingled, say 4 plus months.    We did two months in Italy last year and it was wonderful but hard to get the right balance of routine writing/research and adventure.   Single me used to be able to go and bang out huge amounts of research/writing in a library in month.   That model doesn’t hold the same charm without my partner in life.

I also decided these edits must die.  I mean end.  This chapter doesn’t deserve more than a week of my life.

Weird, I now think of a week being five days with weekends being nearly sacred family time.  Single me used to think weekends had no meaning in the academic life: breaks came as projects allowed and as events tempted me.

Anyway.  That’s my first self imposed deadline.  Let’s see how I do.


I am trying not to edit these posts but my use of powwow disturbed me.  The thing about racially insensitive language is that rarely the user of that language thinks of it as such.  I’d never say ‘he jewed me down’.  I’m even uncomfortable typing it.  But I spent many years saying “jiped” without ever realizing that it slurred Roma and others identified as  ‘gypsies’.  Native American references in our colloquial speech are wider than one might think.  I used to think that the giver in ‘Indian Giver’ was the colonial oppressor who didn’t keep their promises or who tricked the indigenous peoples.   Similarly I thought an ‘Indian summer’ was called that because of how beautiful it was.  Americans use ‘Indian’ the way Romans used ‘Punic’.  Native Culture is no more a thing of the past, than Punic culture was post 146 BC.  I know damn well what a powwow is and have no business appropriating or generalizing the term.

Architectural Coins

So the internet went out in the middle of my edits and I found myself crawling the walls waiting to get to JSTOR to read all about Tzetzes and Stesichorus.  I paced in the living room and ate some cheese.  Not very productive.  A version of Crawford’s words came back to me: “What can I productively do the next time the internet goes down for 15 minutes”.  I opened a damned book.  Radical I know.  Paper.  I looked up ‘coins’ in Stewart’s Statues in Roman Society.  [I do like the pretty pictures…]  He describes how the Romans distort representations of temples to emphasize the interior cult figure.  The columns spread out and statue grows and the whole image is a symbol of the sanctuary and cult practice.  He then goes on to say the “earliest clear numismatic representation of this kind of temple is on a denarius of M. Volteius in 78 BC. It shows the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.  Before long the cult statue was displayed within the building.” He then goes on to talk about coins in 36 BC.  I opened RRC and started scratching my head.  Sure there is a temple on the coin (above), but I’m not sure what that it relates to cult statues, except perhaps in how the columns are widened to make visit the three cella doors thus making clear that this temple is the temple in which the Capitoline Triad are honored. And, it might represent the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, but I’m equally not sure we can know that to be true.   At the time the coin was made the temple had been destroyed and not yet rebuilt.   It represents the idea of the temple more than the temple itself.  I almost wonder if Stewart didn’t mean to refer to this coin:

This seems to be the first of the type he’s describing and is illustrated on the same plate in RRC.  All that said, this image and the earlier appear to come out of nowhere in the RRC (Like so much of the iconography).  I haven’t yet checked on Hellenistic precedents, but I am intrigued that early architectural images seem to be on bronze (346/3 and 348/6).  There are suggestions of architecture on earlier specimens (291/1), but not with the same prominence.  And then there is the question if we should think of monuments as architectural (242/1 and 243/1).  ….  So much more to say, but that colleague finally texted and I have an academic ‘date’ in Manhattan in an hour.  Gotta motor.

Much later addendum (11/11/13): Today, again, I became obsessed with architecture on coins.  No great revelations other than examples prior to the 1st century BC and scholarly discussion there of is thin on the ground.  Here’s some types that might be relevant to future discussion.  (Or not, but I enjoyed finding them!)

The coinage of Sidon in the late 5th century shows the city defenses.  Most specimens show three towers it seems, this beauty has five:

This might be an early temple from Samaria from the 4th century:

Otherwise, other pre Imperial non Roman temples are all probably influenced by Roman precidents.  Such as this coin of Paestum (HN Italy 1252):


Or the coins of Juba I of Mauretania:



A little update 3/21/2014: I came back to this post just to add the coin below, but I was surprised I hadn’t already mentioned here the work of Elkins.  He’s the scholar who has the most to say about the development of architectural types on coins and will become the standard reference.  And, that said here’s a fun early type:

Mantinea, Drachm (Silver, 5.69 g 2), c. 370-360s. Bearded warrior, nude from the waist down, wearing traveling hat, cuirass and special shoes, dancing a ‘war’ dance to right, holding upright spear in his right hand and another transversely over his left shoulder with his left. Rev. Jugate busts of the Dioscouri to left on top of a low altar ornamented with triglyphs and metopes. BMC 6. MG 238. SNG Cop 246. Traité III 957, pl. CCVI, 34. On obv. see see. L. Lacroix, Les Monnaies de Mantinée et les traditions arcadiennes, Bull. Ac. R. Belg. 1967, pp. 303-311.

3 out of 410 days: Not the most promising start…



Last night I went out with friends, colleague friends.  I like them.  I care about what’s going on in their lives.  It feels relevant but it is also 95% about college matters, all the things I’m not supposed to be thinking about.  My job, not my career.  The idea of giving up much of that closeness with my friends is really sad, not to mention really hard while I’m geographically present in my beloved borough.  I see why its so good to physically escape.

Forgot to press start on the pedometer.  I’ve no idea how far or fast I ran.  Felt defeating.  Yet the run itself felt good.  Why does it matter that I can’t quantify it?

Then go a text from a colleague in town from Italy trying to make a plan.  I want to stay here and work but networking is also part of my job.  No wait.  Not my job.  It’s to the potential benefit of my career.  And I like the guy, but after five texts we don’t have a plan and my day is on standby.  Reminds me of dating.

Michael Crawford once told me that the secret to academic success is knowing what you’re going to do the next time you can take 15 minutes in the library.  My Doctoral Supervisor didn’t think much of this advice, said it was an inappropriate approach for a junior scholar.  That said, I’m not so junior any more.  Perhaps I shall dust of that advice.  I’m sure the 15 minutes aren’t to include blogging–a modern omphaloscopic indulgence.

The next 15 minutes (or more)  will be double checking Euripides references in Diodorus as my PR suggested.


Pseudo Ebusan Coins

So when I think of the island of Ibiza I think of club music and drunk pasty white and sunburned 18-30s. Not a great image.  Not my next holiday destination.  But I have just a few minutes and I wanted to keep my coin-a-day promise.  I panicked because edits had eaten up the day and switching gears before my 5.30 appointment wasn’t looking feasible.  So I said to self, “SELF! you LOVE coins! It can be any coin! What’s the most fun coin you can think off…”  And then it hit me, the Pseudo Ebusan Coins from the around the Bay of Naples.  Could I find a picture?! Nope.  Reminds me that tracking a good one down for the book will take some doing.   Anyway, you can read all about them in real scholarship.  The gist of it is that the Island of Ebusus (Modern Ibiza) made some scrappy bronze coins with a funky Egyptian diety on them named, Bes.  I take no responsibility for the potential misinformation after that last link.  I just put it there in case you needed a visual for the squat full-frontal pot bellied guy with his tongue stuck out.  Anyway, some very clear numismatists who did not get all stuck on the image on the coins but rather looked at distribution patterns of finds and other things have shown that imitations of this small denomination were made in Pompeii or thereabouts.  Why is that cool?  Basically it shows a demand for small change that wasn’t being met by state production and is shows that the prototypes for what would spend in the market place weren’t Roman even in an Italy dominated by Rome.  That has some rich rich potential.  Okay I’m off…

2 out of 410 days: Dyslexia and Balance


I’m not very good at balance. I meant that to be a statement about work/life balance.  I then thought I’d go on to say something about previous writing experiences, such as how book number one was written up mostly in one summer during which I sat at my kitchen table and did not get dressed or showered until my writing was a done for the day–an effective but isolating technique.  So one of the goals for this sabbatical is to manage to be really ‘productive’ in the academic sense and not lose myself in it.  To that end I went for a run.  A short slow run.  2 miles in 22 minutes with a warm up and cool down on either side.  It’s something.

But there is another way in which my balance is bad, the walking into lamp posts and falling off curbs kind of way.  This goes back to life time of learning disabilities.   A litany I find really boring.  Being injured is really boring.  I am often injured.  It’s amazing how much damage falling off the curb can do over a life time. To work on this, I work on this:


It wobbles and thus forces me to actively engage in balancing my body as I stand on it and type this. I wonder if there is a connection between my two balance deficits. Maybe… when something has my attention only that thing has my attention.

Anyway.  The other part of the title and directly related to the physical balance issue is the dyslexia.  I didn’t learn to read until the summer after second grade and was really proficient until a year or two after that.  Writing by hand never really took off the way reading did.  This typing thing works much better for me.  That said, I truncate words, ending drop off and I lose the little connecting words.    I can re read a dozen times and my mind provides the fix and I cannot see the error.

Going through the PR edits yesterday I was actually indignant that the PR and editors were confused by my typos.  Surely they could deduce the correct meaning?  The suggestion that my errors impeded communication infuriated me.   Largely because that’s my greatest fear.

It’s not like I haven’t been told that copy editing matters.  Sure, I could blame the press or point to my collaborators, but I also know typos are my hallmark.  We’ll have to think how to address this going forward.  The academic spouse has been the long suffering victim of this yearning for a clean text in many households.  I’m not sure I’m comfortable with putting that burden on my partner.

I found a dozen plus errors in yesterday’s posts.  I didn’t correct them.  If you misunderstand me so be it.  If this is to be a low stakes, I’m going to have to be me, typos and all.


The photo at the top has no relevant no content relevance (just a nice spine), but is there to indicate that last night and this morning I rearranged all the books in the house in order to make room for the project specific books that I brought back from campus.  There is something shockingly satisfying to ordering and organizing books. I’d say something about a chapter on Grammar which I found amongst my partner’s books [SDA hereafter], but the edits beckon.

Dioscuri: Obligatory Coins.

I was feeling pretty good about this first day.  I’ve read a little (about gems), I’ve written a little, I’ve chipped away at the to-do list on the mirror.  I’ve kept the procrastination under reasonable control (who doesn’t need to know a little more about burning wild parsnips?!).  I even have exciting new evidence that I’ve not yet worked into my argument (expect to hear more about Pliny’s preface to his Natural Histories soon).   Still there are no coins.   If this BOOK is too be written I must have something to say about the coins each and every day until the BOOK is done.  

I picked this coin because it represents the Dioscuri, AKA Castor and Pollux.  This also happens to be what my partner named our cats.  So these are the other Dioscuri in my life:



There are lots of Dioscuri all over Roman republican coinage, especially on the most commonly produced denomination, the denarius.  So when one thinks Dioscuri on coins its usually this image that comes to people’s minds:

Notice how in both representations the Dioscuri are wearing conical caps–their most distinctive attribute.  This latter image is so common that its boring.  Boring coins aren’t bad.  In fact boring coins are really helpful because if we get too focused on the images and what the images might mean we miss all sorts of other questions.  How many were made? Where were they found?  When were they made? What were they used for? How were they made?  The pictures are really seductive.  They promise to give us answers if we can just crack their visual code, but visual codes are slippery.  Slippery in the same way as language, especially poetry.  Meanings get layered.  They shift in the mind of the creator.  They shift in the minds of audience, ancient and modern.  They shift out of convenience, political expedience.  They shift with cultural contexts: class, gender, political enfranchisement, age, ethnic self-identification, etc…  And they layer the means up: both/and NOT either/or.   There are huge tracts on semiotics and media studies and art history and more that could all be brought to bear on any numismatic image.   But even if we mapped the intersections and disconnections between the dioscuri of the first coin and dioscuri of the second coin we’d be missing most what the coins can tell us.  We’d be reading the coins through the history, not the history through the coins.  Why is the first one cast? What type of base metal is it made out of?  How does it fit into a denomination system?  Why is the denominational system of the earlier period more complex that that of later periods?  How is value indicated? Could the two coins be exchanges one for the other?  If they are made out of different materials via different techniques and share very little markings in common, why do we want to put them under the same broad label of Republican coinage?